T.J. Watt Photo Credit: ESPN Photo Credit: ESPN

Just when the Pittsburgh Steelers got on a roll, with the offense clicking and a playoff spot in sight, the team got almost the worst news possible — an apparently serious injury to defensive superstar T.J. Watt.

The Steelers edge rusher left the game against the Baltimore Ravens after a collision with Pittsburgh defensive tackle Montravius Adams in the third quarter. Although Watt reportedly wanted to return to the game, the Steelers kept him sidelined, fearing an MCL sprain.

After the game, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport confirmed that the initial diagnosis is a torn MCL (Grade 3 sprain). Watt is set to undergo further testing Sunday.

Here’s a look at the play where Watt got hurt. It was a seemingly routine glancing blow from his teammate that caused the damage.

“T.J. is being evaluated with a knee injury,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin told reporters (via Alex Kozora, SteelersDepot.com). “I’ll have more information probably next time we get together. Obviously disappointed in that. But there’s challenges in the game of football.”

The fact Watt wanted to return to the game is encouraging, but Grade 3 MCL sprains, if that initial diagnosis holds, are serious. According to ClevelandClinic.com, “A grade 3 MCL tear is a severe tear in which your MCL is completely torn. … Your knee will likely be very unstable and loose, and you’ll probably experience intense pain and tenderness. It’s common for someone to have other knee injuries, especially damage to their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), if they have a grade 3 MCL tear.”

The injury can heal without surgery, but recovery can take weeks.

That means Watt, a leading contender to win NFL Defensive Player of the Year, would almost certainly miss at least the Steelers first postseason game, if not the entire postseason. That’s if they even qualify for the playoffs. Pittsburgh will make the postseason if Jacksonville or Buffalo lose, or Houston and Indianapolis tie.

It goes without saying that Watt, who is tied for the NFL lead this season with 19 sacks, is vital to the team’s chances in the postseason.

NFL fans quickly reacted to the bad news.

[Ian Rapoport, NFL Network; Photo Credit: ESPN]

About Arthur Weinstein

Arthur spends his free time traveling around the U.S. to sporting events, state and national parks, and in search of great restaurants off the beaten path.